A Must Read For Gears Fans: Aspho Fields

After an unplanned break for reading and writing, I decided to pick it up by reading a book that came with familiar faces for me: the Gears of War novel "Aspho Fields" by Karen Traviss. Since I know the games, I was aware the surrounding, the conflict, and the characters along their dynamics.

"Aspho Fields" is split into two plot that have a common theme:

One story takes place in the "present" as Delta Squad encounters an old commander of Marcus': Bernie. She has tried to make her way back to the COG since E-Day. Once there, she along the rest of the Gears are put onto a mission to relocate the food stores and supplies in fear of an attack by the Locust. The appearance of Bernie brings back memories of the past. Now Dom wants to know how his brother really died. A battle in which Marcus was also involved. Bernie and Marcus had sworn to never tell Dom the truth. 

This leads to the second story: It is set during the Pendulum Wars. Still as school boys, Carlos - Dom's older brother - meets a young Marcus Fenix in school. Carlos immediately calls him a friend. Slice of life moments are shared, filling the story with moments that show how Marcus, Carlos, and Dom became close friends and brothers. This stops when we reach the mission to Aspho Fields which marks the night in which Carlos died. 

Gears of War: Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss

First and foremost, I recommend that you either know or have played at least the first Gears of War game. Otherwise orientation is difficult. There is no explaining who or what the Locust are, or in fact that this story is not set on Earth but on Sera with 26 hour long days. Some parts are also skimmed that would be in an "original" setting because of course, it is assumed that readers know it already. While it is possible to read it without any of this knowledge, it would come at the cost of atmosphere. 

Probably so because the story is more character driven than plot driven. It displays an interesting and insightful peek into who Marcus, Dom, and Carlos were when they were young, and how they became the men they are today. Furthermore, you experience what cemented this unbreakable friendship.

This is very important for Carlos' character, who never appeared in the games due to having died way earlier. Both plots revolve around him in one way or another. So Traviss had to set up a whole character and build a friendship that feels like brotherhood all within the first 100 pages. The good news is that she manages to do so. By the time they become Gears you feel that their bond is unbreakable. 

Meaning that the reader is taken right along. Even for the emotional ride, in particular so because you know the outcome at the very beginning, but the gut punch is a big one nevertheless. 

While this can be said about Marcus and Carlos, there is little to no show how Dom and Marcus became brothers to the end. In the "present" they share the same steadfast relationship known from the games. 

The book does shed a further light on them, which is that Marcus appears very stoic and cold from the outside, but Dom knows he is anything but. He can read little twitches and does so without fault. Marcus also knows that Dom does this and even relies on it. 

Sadly, in "the past" there is little show of how they became friends. There are a few scenes between them but the book mostly relies on knowing the dynamic from the games. The past focuses more on Carlos and Marcus. This does not mean that Marcus does not worry about Dom (he does) and vice versa. This shows when they are young adults. Personally, I would have enjoyed a few more scenes between young!Marcus and young!Dom and see them getting up to all sorts of shenanigans. 

"Aspho Fields"  contains more plot of the past than the present - which is already alluded to by the title. The plot of the present is set after the first game and deals with open questions, hints towards the seconds game, as well as interpersonal relationships: one of the most prominent is between Hoffman and Marcus. 

Of course, there has to be some action and fighting, which follows along the lines of suspense but overall is nothing too special. The pacing is good, and the slicing and dicing parts are also elegantly described. This includes the big battle at Aspho Fields. Damn that's one hell of a ride, from all aspects and sides. It also shows an interesting insight into what drives Hoffman and his morals as a military officer. On top of this, it shows heroic actions from Marcus and Dom. And of course, the truth aka the big gut punch. 

The "twist" is not in there for shocks but it really sits with you. While the moment feels like a saddening and shocking realisiation, the aftermath when they sit on the beach - broken and bent - is what really got me. Especially so, because Marcus brought back Carlos' remains, and the frank truth about the conversation between Bernie and Marcus.

Bernie made it her business to know what would make or break the Gears under her. Marcus wasn't exactly going back to the bosom of close, supportive family. He knelt, one knew drawn up, one arm clasped around it, still frozen in the that same position, head down, on hand on what she could only thing of as a >>package<<. "

- Aspho Fields, page 320 

Overall, "Aspho Fields" provides a novel that is easy to read on the go. It contains action, emotion, and conflict. The standard Gears' recipe that fans know and love. On top of this it offers further insight to already well established characters. For fans, I recommend this book in a heartbeat. For outsiders, knock yourself out, if you are okay with having to work out some details yourself. . 

Aspho Fields by Karen Traviss
Series:Gears of War #1
Published2008by Del Ray
Genres: Sci-Fi
Add to your shelf on ... The StoryGraphGoodReads
Content warnings:violence, , death, and war

Post a Comment

Copyright © floralcars.